Thursday, December 31, 2009

Visiting the ER in Rifle, Colorado

If you need an emergency room, I don't suppose you could find a better place than Rifle, Colorado—unless you're near the McKee Medical Center in Loveland, Colorado. I'm intimately familiar with just how great that one is, too. They treated me quickly, professionally and gently. They were very nice, sympathetic and thorough. Who could ask for more? They even gave me food with my pain medication.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I did manage to break a rib. It also appears that one of my kidneys is swollen, but all other tests were negative, so no blood in the urine means the kidney will be fine once the swelling goes down. I hit hard, huh?

I was told not to go skiing (an easy enough instruction to follow, since I've never skied before) or do anything stupid... well, I promised not to ski, and to do my very best on the 2nd part, which made the good doctor laugh for some reason. I was being serious.

It's well past time for another pain pill, my first since leaving the hospital room, but Betty's going to feed us first. Everyone's being good to me, and there have been relatively few snide remarks about how I was hurt. Relatively few. Most of them from relatives. Oh yeah. Everyone here is a relative.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

70% of All Home Accidents Happen in the Bathroom

Here's something that happened during the wedding trip that I intentionally failed to mention. The first night at the Grand Desert, an absolutely fabulous time-share where Pat and Betty so generously arranged for bride and groom, best man, and parents of the groom (us) to stay, along with them, I had "a bit" of an accident.

I actually hate to admit what happened, and I've tried to pretend it was going to go away by itself, but now that it looks like John will be taking me to the emergency room in Grand Junction tomorrow, I'm going to admit my stupidity. I got up during the night to go to the bathroom. That's a typical, normal thing for a sixty-something year old person to do. What I forgot, I guess, was just how big these rooms are. The bathroom was no exception. I turned, doffed my PJ drawers and sat where I thought the throne was.

Suddenly I was on the floor and my back had been slammed by the porcelain beast. I think I have a semi-permanent "Toyo Toto" bruise, and my tail bone, back, neck and shoulder really hurt, but I wasn't going to ruin the wedding for something that I thought was so stupid—and minor.

Four days later, though, and the bruise is beginning to fade, but I'm concerned about the dramatic increase in pain right next to my spine, just above the right side of the waist. It's gotten bad enough that I'm now having trouble breathing and doing little things like walking and raising my arms. I'm no doctor, but it seems like the pain should diminish with the bruise...shouldn't it?

I'm pretty sure I'll feel better just knowing what's going on inside me. I've always said I have an American Express Medical Degree. "This is your body. Don't leave home without it." Anything else I leave to the professionals. I do know I'm pretty tired of hurting, though.

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Lot of Love


Eventually there will be a slide show on the blog, but even that won't really convey just how special this late afternoon wedding was. I don't think I've ever seen a bride and groom so relaxed and just contented to be together enjoying each moment and every guest. The reception was handled the same way, and was just perfect. I'm still more than a little overwhelmed by the whole experience of watching my son get married. It was an amazing experience. Since I haven't yet processed all the feelings, I'll let some photos speak for me. The first two are professional shots. The rest are mine.

Those of you who prayed that they would make the trip safely, and worried when there were so many problems on their trip, I thank you for helping keep the faith that it would work out. For Tighe, Stacey, Uncle Ken, Aunt Kay and Uncle Joe, Uncle Pat and Aunt Betty, and those from Elisha's family who traveled so far to be with them on this special day, I want to say thank you for helping make this beginning so special for them.


Bride and groom with parents.

Jeremy's brother Tighe (best man) with his dad John.


Jeremy with his dad and brother Tighe, who was the best man.

Me and John, parents of the groom, before the ceremony.

Bride Elisha and Jeremy getting ready to enter the chapel.

The decorated car.

Elisha with her maids.

Jeremy—he's as proud and happy as he appears.

After the ceremony, before going to the reception, we drove to the Las Vegas sign for a few photos.

Pat and Betty at the reception. They're always fun...

One of Elisha's nephews fell asleep before the food was ready.

Not a traditional wedding cake, but we all enjoyed it...

And they fed each other with dignity and style.

If you'd like to see the videotape of the actual wedding ceremony, you can look online and enter the groom's name as Harrell, the bride's name as Fierro, and the wedding date as Dec. 27, 2009. Please note that we all obviously thought the cameras were turned off long before they were... Oh, well. We are what we are.

Congratulations, Jeremy and Elisha.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Wedding Update

It's been the sort of story people tell their children and grandchildren about. "You'll never believe how many things went wrong when your mother (grandmother) and I drove to our wedding..." with Uncle Tighe.

They were, indeed, supposed to arrive yesterday to spend Christmas day at Elisha's parents' home in Las Vegas, Nevada. It's now 10:20 p.m. the night before the wedding, and at last contact they're closing in on arrival--at about five miles per hour--while some kind of military checkpoint has been set up at a bridge near Hoover Dam to check each individual vehicle for some kind of potential threat.

They're exhausted. They're beyond hungry. They're also heading to Elisha's parents' home first, so we're going to bed soon with cell phone in hand. Just in case.

I do believe we'll have a wedding tomorrow. Of course, they still have to buy the wedding license first. The good news is that any couple that still wants to get married after a trip like they've just been through certainly isn't wearing blinders.

The Wedding Trip

While we had a wonderful Christmas here with Pat & Betty, there was more than plenty of drama for our son Jeremy and Elisa as they left Shreveport, Louisiana with Tighe, our oldest son and their best man. They pulled out around 3 p.m. Central time and hit traffic immediately, being Christmas Eve. They were heading for Las Vegas for the Little Chapel of the West, where Elisha's parents and all the guests are waiting to see them get married on Dec. 27th.

Jeremy said it seemed to take forever to reach Dallas, but when they arrived, they hit a wall of traffic. I'll correct this later if I'm way off the mark, but I believe it took them four hours to get through Dallas. Then things got really bad. The next morning they called from just outside Witchita Falls, where all the roads were closed due to weather related traffic accidents. They were sitting, doing nothing, and couldn't proceed in any direction. At that point it had taken them about nineteen hours to make a seven hour drive. Not good.

They finally got rolling and everything looked good. He called last night and said, "Mom, are you sitting down?" He sounded shaken, and I pictured crumpled fenders, the car in a ditch and an ambulance pulling away. Never ask your mother that question when she can't see if there's blood. Just spill the news. It's far less painless. The car overheated and broke down in New Mexico. Because it's a Prius, hybrid, only the dealership can "turn it back on" to see what's wrong, so even if it's just a hose, it's going to cost them several hundred dollars. (I feel a soap box moment coming on, but I'll save it for another day.)

Of course dealership is all the way in Albuquerque, 150 miles away. The tow truck can't pick them up until 7 a.m. That means a hotel had to be rented—very expensive in Santa Rosa. And once they get there, if the car can be fixed quickly, they still have a nine hour drive before the wedding. The wedding is tomorrow, so there's still a chance...

We'll be heading out to Las Vegas ourselves at 7:30 this morning, and keeping the faith for the best. We'll be praying, of course, and staying by the cell phones—thank goodness for technology! At least they're not out looking for a payphone...

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve 2009


It's been a wonderful Christmas eve today, and a great visit so far with Pat and Betty. I wanted to say Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all my far away friends and family, and send this little video slide show as a simple gift of photos and music. Pastor Stan—this song's for you.

Christmas Eve 2009


Life offers a few perfect days, moments, memories. I had some of those today, and think I may have taken a few perfect photos to commemorate a day in the snow with my brother Pat.

We began Christmas Eve day by going to the Powderhorn ski resort, where we rode the lift together so he could ski and I could play with my camera. Neither of us was disappointed. Here are a few of my favorite photos, and perhaps a short slide show. We'll see how that turns out. If there is a slide show, it will be added later, so check back. It'll be its own entry for Christmas.

The view from the ski lift is wonderful, but even better is the beauty and quiet up there.

Pat was ready to hit the slopes, but I was on the lift for a round-trip ride back to the bottom with my camera.

He was faster than I was, too. His shout from below not even a quarter of the way down let me get a quick shot of him sailing past my much slower conveyance.

I was so glad my trip was slow, as it gave me time to see the tiny pines among the huge pines and aspens. I know "winter wonderland" is probably just a trite saying to most people, but we live it here in Colorado.

The open areas on the hills are amazing to me. Why are there suddenly no trees? Sometimes you can see herds of deer or elk crossing or, even more often, the hoof prints of those herds in the new snow.

One photo I didn't get was Santa. He was on Powderhorn today, taking a break before his big run tonight. He smiled and waved, but I got flustered and couldn't get the camera aimed in time. He was going up the ski lift while I was going down. He sure looked happy. I could hear his loud "Ho ho ho" echoing off the hills when he realized I hadn't been able to get his picture.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Heading Out

There's a storm heading in across our route that's supposed to last three days, so we're heading out a couple days early. My brother Pat and his wife Betty advised us to keep an eye on the weather and be flexible, so I don't need to feel guilty—just rushed. It's not like I didn't see this coming. I've been watching the weather forecast change for the last week. It just didn't change in the direction that would give me an extra day to do laundry and pack.

Today I managed a run to the grocery store, to do the laundry, wrap all the gifts (for Christmas, Tighe's birthday, plus Jeremy and Elisha's wedding), and make another double batch of pecan tarts. I've got everything fairly well packed, and now I've just got the shrimp dip to make and the cooler to pack. My cameras, cell phone and headphones are charged. I know I'm forgetting something, but I don't know what it is. This always happens to me.

The final thing I want to say is thank you to my sister Ellen. We used to get together to bake Christmas goodies. Now that we live so far away, I have to do it by myself—with her recipes. They're all my favorites. It makes me miss you so much more than usual, Ellen. They are tradition, taste and memory blended together. I made enough to share with everyone who stops by for the wedding. (But if I never roll out another tiny little tart... well, until next time.) Recipe to follow soon.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Conversations With Ashley

I'm not a trouble-maker on purpose. When I talk to my granddaughter Ashley, it's just really easy to forget that she isn't even three yet, although she's closing in on it now. Her conversational skills are just so sharp that you never know what's coming up next with her.

About a month ago we were talking on the phone. Since they live in The Netherlands, that's the only way to stay close. Grandma gets lonesome. Grandma picks up the phone. I did remember to say hello to Ruth, my daughter-in-law, first. Grandpa doesn't always remember to do that. Then I asked if Ashley was available to talk. That's when I sometimes get in a bit of trouble—or cause it.

While we were talking, I casually mentioned that "when we go on the big cruise ship together, we should send your Mama and Daddy off on a date together, so you and Kate and Grandpa and I can play together on the ship by ourselves for awhile. Would you like that?" I had it in mind to give Ben and Ruth the opportunity to go on one of the more difficult off-ship excursions, like the Frasissi Caves off the port of Ancona, Italy.

Ashley thought it was such a fine idea that a couple of weeks later Ruth told me that she had to explain daily to Ashley that, no, they hadn't forgotten to get on the cruise ship with Grandma and Grandpa yet. That wouldn't be happening until May 1st. "Every day!" she said to me. "Buy her a calendar," I told her.

I think I did it again today. We were talking, Ashley and I, and she was very excited about having made a sleeping bag out of a blanket. I let her know that Grandma also has a sleeping bag.

"You do, Grandma?"
"I sure do. It's blue and green."
"It is?"
"Yes, and it's very silky soft."
"Where is it?"
"It's rolled up in it's own little bag in the garage."
"You keep it in the garage?"
"Yes, on a shelf."
"Okay. Tomorrow I'll come see your sleeping bag."
"Oh, Ashley. I wish you could, but I live very very far away. It would take a really long time on the airplane to get here."
"That's okay, Grandma. I like long days on the airplane. I'll come tomorrow."

I don't think Ruth hates me. She never acts like she does, but I know she's a very patient woman, raised to act with Christian forbearance. She probably knows that I don't (usually) mean to cause trouble. I'm just a fun kind of person. She could always call my bluff. Stick Ashley on the plane... I'd meet her in Denver. Well, maybe we should wait until she gets Ashley potty trained, now that I think of it.

I can hardly wait until Kate's old enough to have a turn on the phone with Grandma...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas


Addressing envelopes to send out our Christmas Cards is my least favorite part of getting ready for Christmas, but hearing the music, eating (and even baking) the cookies, and seeing the decorations is always a treat. (I'll have the cards out this week, with photos, my friends...)

This year we won't even be home for Christmas. We'll be leaving a couple of days early to go to my brother Pat's house. He and Betty are having us there so we can all go together to see our middle son Jeremy get married two days later to Elisha. We'll take the stockings off of the elf holders and bring them along with our wedding clothes and gifts.

So wherever you are, and whatever you're doing, I hope you can enjoy each and every blessing this season brings your way.

When Christmas comes already yet
With presents warm and sweet,
The things I like in my stockings best,
By Jiminy are my feet!
- Anonymous


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bison Chili - A Perfect Winter Meal

One of our favorite Winter meals is Bison Chili. We always make it for guests because we know that other locales have a more difficult time finding bison to purchase. Although it can be made with ground beef as a substitute, it's not quite as good, and it's definitely not as good for you. I've recently found out that you can always find it at Whole Foods Markets in 38 states, and I'm pretty sure there are other places that sell Ground Bison as well. Here's my recipe.


Bison Chili


Ingredients:

2 Lbs. Ground Bison

2 15 1/2 oz can Italian Stewed Tomatoes, with juices

1 15 1/2 oz. can Chili Beans

1 15 1/2 oz. can Kidney Beans

1 1.48 oz. pkg. Chili Seasoning Mix

1/2 Cup Chopped Onion (or 1 large onion, chopped)

1/4 Cup Brown Sugar, Packed

1 Cup Spicy V-8 Juice


Instructions:

Sauté onion and ground bison in heavy skillet over medium high heat, breaking up clumps until browned.

Dump in large crock pot for the easy method or put on the stove where you'll have to watch it.


Add remaining ingredients and stir thoroughly.


On stove: Bring just to boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cook until thickened to desired consistency, stirring occasionally, at least 40 minutes. Serve when ready.


In crock pot: Cook on low or medium 4 hours or all day, whatever you want, or on high for about two hours. If you don't have a crock pot, may I recommend mine? It's cheap, works great, and the side hinges keep the lid in place, and the lid holds the ladle. Here's one place where you can buy it.

String Crochet—The Agony and The Results

In a recent email with my friend Schmath I was commending her on her recently taken up knitting and crochet skills, and how quickly she's come along. We sent about 15 emails or more back and forth. I think it started with me sending her a link to one of my favorite places that sends me a monthly newsletter with free patterns. Obviously they'd love for me to buy their yarn, as well, and I do that on occasion, too.

On one of the messages I mentioned that I had finally kept one of the doilies I made for myself, and that someday when she was ready to try string crochet with the little bitty hook, she should let me know because I have so many gorgeous patterns. The one I kept is a type of 3-D crochet, and it's only about twelve inches, but has a raised pattern on one side. I said it wasn't nearly as difficult as the "circle of doves" I made for a few special people, and she sent me back this small photo.


You can't tell, but it's big. I'll have to ask Schmath to comment on point to point inches, but I'd guess 30?

I had to laugh. How could I forget that I had made one for her when she got married? I will admit that a lot of memories got blown away when I had a couple of very long seizures a couple of years ago. It's just strange that I have absolutely no memory of it at all, even though I can remember buying her an Intellitouch guitar tuner for her wedding shower. She said I also made her a music book to go with it, but that's gone from the memory banks as well. Weird.

So, Schmath, thanks for helping replace some of the empty spaces in my head. It keeps what's left from rattling around. And I hope people will visit your new knitting blog to see how quickly you've learned two of my favorite hobbies and what great things you're already making. I'm impressed. I do wish we lived close enough to distract each other with our music, though. I feel some country gospel coming on.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Baby Blanket and Hat for Max


I don't always get to see the new little lives that my friends and their offspring bring into the world. I've tried throughout the years to at least make something before the baby arrives. This year one of my dearest friends, Jeanne (I was going to say oldest, but...) was expecting a new grandchild. We each had three kids, and raised them pretty much side-by-side.

Jeanne's middle kid, Kelley, has moved to Massachusetts, and we were lucky enough to get out there for the wedding a few years ago. She and Marty were expecting a little boy, and I had the blanket and hat all planned out. Then we got back from our trip to Europe and I had the worst arthritis attack on my hands ever. The work slowed down unbelievably. Poor Max is a couple of months old now, and hopefully received his blanket today, so I can finally post the photos of what I put in the mail last week.

I made these extra warm for a Winter baby in one of the snowiest parts of the country. I'm just so sorry it took so long to complete... By the way, when I need to make it extra warm, I use two strands of yarn at a time, which gives me three colors, one of each, plus one of the two together for a tweed effect, which is great for little boys.

This is one of my favorite patterns. I call it the star blanket, but I've also heard it called a snowflake blanket. I like it because of the way you can put the baby's head on one of the blanket points and fold the kid up inside it for extra snuggly comfort.

The hat is something new I kind of "ball-parked," and I'm not sure how thrilled I am with it. I mailed it, but I'm still deciding if it meets my standards. (Yes, I do have some standards.) You may recognize the doll at the top as my little model, who is nice enough to sit uncomplaining on my shelf until I need to make sure things are big enough for a newborn. She appears in other blog entries wearing some of the things I've made.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Our Week in the Snow


I love it here. There's so much variety, so much to see and do, even if you're not overly physical—I'm going to admit that I consider walking my biggest physical endeavor. I'm not doing a slide show this time, but showing big photos of this last week, three outings including my early morning walk today out in the snow with the camera.

I want to say up front that I thank God every day that I live in these beautiful surroundings with my good husband in my comfortable home. I am blessed.

The first day's snow was a surprise. It hadn't been on the forecast, and trust me, I look online daily, and John checks the paper. I'm one of those people who lived without four seasons for so long that I celebrate each one (except Summer—I had enough of that one). I look for the signs and watch for snow. Also, since we do live a way from the stores, we only shop about once a week, and keep a list of what we're out of the rest of the time. If we see that snow is expected, we'll go ahead and shop early for things like eggs, milk, and bread.

I took a few photos from the decks, first the back deck, which is by the front door (above)...

Then by the front decks by the slide doors (below)...


I started some laundry, and then we headed out with the grocery store list to make sure we weren't going to run out of anything. It's silly, since we don't get all that much snow, but we like to be cautious. We also like to take the camera along. We ran into a small herd of elk right down the road, so I was glad we'd headed out with the camera in tow.


The next morning we were a little more prepared to see that it had snowed again, but I was a little amazed to see that it was still snowing. It snowed all day, in fact, and although our little community has its own road plows, the highways leading up to us didn't get cleared until very late in the day, so we were technically snowed in for part of the morning. (Did I care?) The overnight difference in our patio furniture's coverage was comical, but we won't be using it for months.

I enjoyed watching the snow come down all day. The great thing about living where we do is that through all the big windows we have an incredible view, and it never stops changing.

We had visitors, as always, and they never seem to mind if I take a photo or two (or ten).

They sure have grown this year. These are two of those that were born this Spring, believe it or not.

You can hardly see the fire pit, and I think it'll be awhile before we have any s'mores out here with our friends.

I went around and turned on the inside lights so the house would glow in the pre-dawn light. I love the camera I use because it's so good with low-level light. (It's a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18.) These next photos were all taken just as dawn was breaking this morning, after another night of snow.

John was really pleased with me because when I was done tromping around with my camera I brought in his newspaper. I guess we each have our own priorities.

This is the deck on the other side of the house, and we're not likely to use it until Spring, either.

Nobody uses the swing, but I'm not climbing up there to take it down. Besides, it could be considered "atmosphere." I'm willing to share my atmosphere... It's supposed to keep snowing through tomorrow. I love this. I'm not saying I'd love it so much if I were raising little kids who had to be carted to school, or if were heading to work in it. I'm not dumb. I'm retired. I can sit back and enjoy it.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pecan Pie Crust

This is one of the recipes I took to our early Thanksgiving dinner with Matt & Heather that wonderful Sunday. She asked for a couple of the recipes. Since I had more than one person ask for this pie crust recipe, I figured this was a good place to put it. It makes one 9-inch pie crust.

.-.-.-.-.-.

Pecan Pie Crust

Ingredients:
1 1/2 Cups unsifted all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp confectioners sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 Cup well-chilled unsalted butter, diced
4 Tbsp frozen butter-flavored Crisco shortening, diced
1/2 Cup chopped pecans
3 to 4 Tbsp ice water

Instructions:
  1. Mix together flour, confections sugar and salt in large bowl.
  2. Add butter and shortening.
  3. Using pastry cutter (1st choice) or fingers (in latex gloves in you're me) cut the fats into the dry ingredients until the mixture is the consistency of coarse meal.
  4. Add pecans and toss with forks to mix.
  5. Add ice water, one Tbsp. at a time, around the edge of the bowl, stirring with a fork until moist clumps form.
  6. With lightly floured hands, shape dough into one disk, breaking gluten by creasing it with the side of your hand.
  7. Cover dough with plastic wrap, refrigerating for at least an hour.
  8. Roll into one 9-inch pie crust
Bake as with any other pie crust. At this point, it will depend on whether you're making a pre-baked crust or filling it first. Go with the instructions for the pie you're baking.

.-.-.-.-.-.

I take the scraps from the edges of the pie, place them on a cookie sheet and sprinkle them with sugar. Bake in a 350° oven for about 12-15 minutes. Keep an eye on it, as every oven is different, and I live at 6,000 feet, so I've adjusted for that. You'll get a wonderful treat from your "scraps." When I do this with plain (not pecan) pie crust, I add cinnamon and sugar to the scraps before baking. Part of the fun is the different sizes and shapes of the scraps. Don't try to make them look pretty. Just put them in the cookie sheet the way the come off the edges of the pie.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Early Thanksgiving

Our youngest son not only gave us a wonderful daughter-in-law, he brought us some great friends in her her family members. Her brother Matt and his wife Heather moved to Longmont, a neighboring community not too long after we relocated to Loveland.

Last Sunday they invited us to their home to share an early Thanksgiving dinner with them and their five children. All I had to bring was dessert, and since baking is one of my favorite pastimes, it was a joy. I know the photos in my slide show are going to make Ruth homesick for her brother and his family, since she's so far away, but at least she can see their sweet smiles and share vicariously in a wonderful evening.

I have to say, we always have such a wonderful time when we get together with Matt's family. Their good people who always make me think of the expression "salt of the earth." It was a perfect meal, a perfect night, and they even sent us home with some leftovers. It doesn't get better than that.


Near the end of the evening, the twins must have decided that if the put their coats on, they'd get taken somewhere. They looked really cute, and didn't seem to mind that no outing followed their getting "snow ready."

The only other thing I should add is that I made pecan tarts and a pumpkin pie in a pecan crust, and will be putting both recipes up here within the next few days. Right now I've been cleaning and organizing cupboards. (You could come and help. I'll bake for you...)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Writer's Retreat and Snowfall

The November writer's retreat put on by the Northern Colorado Writer's group was small but powerful. We took up two cottages at the Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch, about nine miles from our home. A writer's retreat is different from a conference. You don't sit through how-to lectures and workshops as you would in a conference.

Each person goes to a quiet, private spot and writes. There are times for discussion and helping each other, popcorn and movie night, meals together and such, but the primary focus is on writing. Well, I was editing, but it amounts to the same thing, although I've found that writing is MUCH EASIER than editing!

I was delighted with our time there and the wonderful and focused women of the group. The grounds were beautiful as well, but never more so than after the snow began to fall. I ended up having a couple of hikes through the snow with my cameras while working through ways to handle advice I didn't want to follow on my manuscript edits. (Sometimes it's almost impossible to tell good advice from bad, especially on your first book.) When I have to think things through, I walk, and if it's snowing—I walk in beauty. Here's the proof.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Saying Goodbye, Returning Home

How can we stand to say goodbye to our children and grandchildren when the visits are so sweet and too infrequent? I've often said that I'm easier to love when I don't live too close. Is it really a joke? Probably not. Like most people, I have more than my share of quirks. Our visits might be short, but they're poignant and blessed, and saying goodbye is always hard.

We worked hard to give them wings, and although we still worry at times and keep them close in prayer and phone calls, some days the miles seem endless. So how exactly can we handle the goodbyes? The last few photos of this slide show pretty much say it all. When you see what we come home to after a visit, you'll understand our contentment with home and hearth. Our roots have been transplanted deeply into this good Colorado soil, and the foothills welcome us home with the deer and the sunsets. I wouldn't choose to live anywhere else.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Missing Those Little Girls

Today I called Ruth in Holland and I'm embarrassed to admit that I hardly said hello before I asked if Ashley was still awake and could I please talk to her... She laughed and put her on the phone, so I figure she probably understands that sometimes a grandma just needs to talk to one of her little girls.

We didn't talk for too long, but it was really great. I could hear Kate singing in the background, and Ashley let me know her little sister was learning to sing really good. Since Kate sings so amazingly for someone who won't be three until December, I imagine they'll be singing duets before too long. When I told her we've got snow on the ground and that the deer were really enjoying their new winter coats, she wanted to come here immediately to see them. (What's a few thousand miles to a two year old?)

I was glad to plant the seeds in her mind that Grandpa and I could babysit on the ship one day while we send her mama and dad off to explore for a few hours. (We're going on a cruise in May with them, from Venice down the coast to Athens and back, then flying back to Amsterdam—more on that later.) She said that sounded like lots of fun. It does to us, too.

Seeing Kate and Ashley in California was wonderful. I still have more photos to share, but here's the trip to the zoo. It was a big day for all of us, really special and memorable. Working on this slide show made me laugh and cry, just going over the memories by myself. I love those girls, and I'm so grateful they've been blessed with the parents they have. Ben and Ruth, you do such a fine job together.


Redesign

Obviously I don't have time to redesign my blog, but that's what I want to do. Originally, I just wanted to change the map. It's not that simple. The map won't go on the right, where it belongs. Maybe it would go there for someone else—someone who knew how to make it right justify. That person wouldn't be me. I guess I'll end up redesigning the entire blog to go with the new map.

But don't you love the map? It shows the last 1000 visitors, and you're the red dot... I love it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mojave Desert to Lake Isabella

Whenever we go through the Mojave Desert, headed toward Lake Isabella, as we did on our recent trip to California, something happens to my husband's driving. He reverts to his teenage years, straightening the road and becoming a lead foot. The only way I can slow him down is by frequently requesting stops to take photos.

Needless to say, I have MANY photos of these sections of road. Here's a slide show of our most recent trip through the area, a combination of shots taken over a couple of days heading in and out of Lake Isabella. You'll see the Mojave Desert, Lake Isabella and the Kern River.

Now that I've returned from my writing retreat, I'm back on track with making my slide shows for the blog, and need to get California out of the way, since I came back from the retreat with about 300 photos of the ranch where the retreat was held. We got about a foot of snow there this weekend, and it was beautiful. (I finally killed my old boots walking around with my cameras. They went right in the trash when I walked in the door at home.) The new photos have got to wait until I finish the California photos, so here's Mojave to Lake Isabella, in and out. Actually, that's the best way to see it: in and out.


Monday, November 9, 2009

Arguing With Idiots

This is so cool. It's one of the top ten finalists in Glenn Beck's new Arguing With Idiots contest. It's my pick to win. It gets one vote for each time it gets watched, so I'm posting it here. Enjoy.


Upload Problems

For some reason my slide show refused to upload last night. I gave up at 3:00 a.m., and went to bed. I'm trying again on a different browser this morning, and I'll have it up as soon as I can. I don't know what the problem is. According to the blogger help center, if it won't download, I should do several things, and I'm doing them in order.

#1, re-save the video (done).
#2, make sure pop-up blockers are turned off (done).
#3, attempt download with another browser (in process).

That's where I'm at now. Stay tuned, folks.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

Finally got it to download, but (of course) there was the little problem of it having been written before this, so it downloaded as an earlier blog, so look below instead of above. I wasn't about to copy and paste into a new blog and hope that it would actually download again. I'll stick to them being in the wrong order instead.

- Kathleen

Sunday, November 8, 2009

On the Road (Why We Drive)

We might take the same route dozens of times, but each is a unique trip. The weather changes, the clouds, sky and shadows vary, and the view from the windows is always more interesting than you could ever see from miles up in an airplane. Obviously, we don't drive to Europe, but even cross-country, we like to take road trips whenever possible.

This is the first of my series on our latest trip to California. I'll probably do it as the trip out, the time there, and the trip back.

On the trip out, we didn't hit much falling snow, but did see some on the mountains around us. The aspens were glorious going across the Rocky Mountains, and there was some ice along the edges of the Colorado River in places. Colors seemed exceptionally vibrant, and clouds added so much interest to the sky that I had a hard time restraining myself from constantly asking John to pull over so I could take more photos. I did take quite a few from the moving car.

By the time we got to California, where Calico Ghost Town is located in the Mojave Desert, we had gone from Winter to Summer, 40 degree temperatures to 90s. I was not amused, but I had expected it. We stopped at the ghost town anyway. I'll admit it's not as great as it was when I was a kid. The best thing there, the "haunted shack," now sports an extra two dollar charge. We took a pass on that and just walked around. The only thing we bought there was a single serving cone for each of us. Those cost us $3.50 each plus tax, so I strongly recommend you eat elsewhere. (They didn't even have chocolate chip!) Entry fee to the park was only $6 each, though, so it wasn't very expensive. I still find the old buildings fascinating.

In the parking lot at the end of our visit to Calico, I was taking a photo of somebody's strange vehicle when they approached to get in and I got to find out a little about their car. It was a Mercedes Unimog. It's... interesting in appearance. I asked the man what kind of gas mileage he got, and he said (this is pretty close to an exact quote), "About eight to ten miles per gallon, but a lot of people take pictures of it." I keep wondering if he felt he should charge them for the photos. He didn't sound particularly pleased, as I stood there with my camera.

Sometimes the best part of a trip is being on the road. When we go to California, the best part of the trip is the people we'll see at the other end. Hopefully that section will be online tomorrow night. For tonight, here's the video slide show.


Okay, so I started from scratch about five a.m., and worked for six and a half hours, since that wasn't the first thing I tried. But I finally did make a somewhat shorter video, about 25% smaller, and for some reason that one eventually loaded. I really don't understand the problem, since the one that refused to load was smaller than some of the other videos I've loaded in the last couple of months. Well, life sometimes can be frustrating.

I changed music, since this was a different length, and got to share one of my favorite guitar artists, Marcel Dadi, playing an original composition, three of his songs put together. It's "Marcel's Rag - Egged Bus Rag - Old Black Piano." He was, tragically, on Flight 800 in 1996 when it crashed en route from NY to Paris. We'll get no new music from this marvelous talent, but he left behind quite a legacy—and all of it can be found in tablature at Mel Bay music books.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Slideshow Promises and Ringling 5 News

I'll begin with an apology for ignoring my blog for so long. I have no excuse, really. Well, perhaps I do, but none I want to share. I now have my cameras downloaded, though, after the California trip, and I'm working on the first slide show. It should be up by tomorrow, showing at least our trip out to the coast, and possibly more.

Meanwhile, here's some really exciting (at least to me) news. If you know me, you realize that music is a huge part of my life. I've been collecting strange music all my life, thanks to a dad who sang pretty weird stuff along with some really fabulous music.

About eight or ten years ago, and that's a big guess since I have a leaky memory where time is concerned, our pastor went to his wife's hometown in Montana. Her uncle, a rodeo cowboy, had broken his neck, though I'm not sure when it happened. They were at his home visiting when The Ringling 5 came to play. Pastor Stan and his wife Ellen immediately realized that this was my kind of music, much of it with offbeat humor, and proceeded to bring me back one of each of their CDs. I've been a huge fan ever since.

This week I got a real kick when one of them, Don S., signed into my web site's guest book. He's the one who also plays accordion and guitar, according to their web site, which matches the two instruments I play. Someone had told him about the good things I've written about their group in several of my blogs. He also let me know they had a newer album out, Faithful Sinners, that I don't have yet. I'll let you know when it arrives... I'm really excited about that. It's Gospel music!

Okay, I'm a little star struck. They're not only really funny, but their lyrics show a profound ability to look deeply into what matters in life. Just think about Grandpa's Barn, and you'll end up saying Ya, sure, you betcha.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Back in Colorado

We're in Colorado, but not home yet. We drove through, but mostly in front of the snow storm that's still having fun along our route, driving all the way to my brother's home in Paracute. We were going to spend last night here anyway, but arrived just after eleven at night one day early, and will leave tomorrow for our place.

It's been so good to see the snow after being in 90 plus degree weather in California just a couple of days ago. I have never done heat gracefully, but now it's pure torture. Actually, anything over 75° feels like punishment. We sure had fun with Ellen, though, and it was great seeing Ben and Ruth, Ashley and Kate.

We didn't get to see everyone we wanted, but in addition to family members we at least got to see Sherrie, Stacey and Hanne, Pastor Stan and Al and Becky. I'm thinking we'll stay home for the rest of the Winter, but that's not a sure thing. We might even go back or Thanksgiving. It's still up in the air. I just hate leaving home while the snow's on the ground and our property looks like an advertisement for Winter Wonderlands Are Us.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Asparagus with Gorgonzola Sauce

I wanted to share one of my favorite recipes with everyone. It's the way I prepare asparagus here at home as often as I can. It's great with or without the sauce, which I always serve on the side. I love the sauce, but a little goes a long way, as it's very rich. Since I can't get my friends to visit as quickly as I'd like, so I can cook for them all, instead I share some of my recipes occasionally. I'm hoping this will tempt them to visit—as if our gorgeous scenery wouldn't be enough...


Asparagus with Gorgonzola Sauce


TIME: Prep/Total Time: 20 min.

Ingredients for two servings:

  • 1/2 pound fresh asparagus spears
  • 1 Shallot
  • 1 Clove Garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tablespoons evaporated milk, half-and-half, or cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons crumbled Gorgonzola

Directions:

In a small sauté pan, sauté chopped shallots and stir fry asparagus until crisp-tender, adding crushed garlic during last two minutes.


Meanwhile, in another saucepan, whisk cream cheese, milk and salt over low heat until smooth. Stir in gorgonzola cheese and heat through.


Remove asparagus from pan and top with sauce or serve on the side.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Ashley and Her Grandpa in Amsterdam

We came back to Ben and Ruth's home, tired and wet after a day of sightseeing in Amsterdam in the rain, and John collapsed on the couch, saying he'd go up for a shower in a minute. Then Ashley started bringing him her babies, and I picked up the video camera. I've cut twenty minutes down to three and a half so you can get a taste of how special their bond is. She is such a great kid.


Babysitters in Amsterdam

I've had some inquiries through my blog on how to find babysitters or babysitting positions in Amsterdam. Since I don't live there, only visit my son's family and grandchildren, I had to do a little checking to get this information. This suggestion comes from my daughter-in-law. I appreciate her pointing me in the right direction.

The American School has a Yahoo Group called Ashbuy where people post things they want to buy or sell. She has seen people post things there about babysitting. Part of this group is also Ash Business, where people can advertise their services. That may be worth checking out. People wanting to view postings need to become members of that Yahoo Group, but it's not difficult, and is free of charge.

I've made it very easy for you. To join the group, simply click here. I hope this helps, and thanks for visiting my blog.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Cologne, Germany: Final Day, European Road Trip

Cologne, Germany was the one city we drove to and left, all in one day, without spending the night. I wasn't sure it would work out very well, but it did. We had a great time and managed to see just about everything. Of course, we were beyond exhausted by the end of the day. It wasn't so much a problem for John and me. We were in a nice quiet car. Ben and Ruth, however, had to listen to the Children's Choir all the way home. I understand Benjamin was close to screaming as well before the final mile was complete. In fact, neither Ashley nor Kate was willing to get into the car for a couple of days afterwards.

We didn't stay in the cathedral long, since the girls didn't feel like being quiet. The crowds were incredible in Cologne, too, and I think that might have been affecting them, as well as being in the car so many miles and walking so many hours for a couple of days in a row. Still, I give so much credit to Ben and Ruth for keeping the girls content. I never saw a single playground in Bruges or Ghent, but everywhere we went with Ben and Ruth, they managed to find one for the kids to run off some steam. I guess they just know where to look? Maybe they start praying for them. (Please, God, they need a playground!)

I didn't take as much video in Cologne, so this clip is shorter. (Did I hear some applause out there?) At the end of the video, we climbed the long flight of stairs and got in our cars, hit the autobahn, driving about four or five hours (I forget) back to The Netherlands to Ben and Ruth's home, and tucking away our Anniversary Trip memories to be played with later.